CD REVIEW: BRITISH TONE POEMS Volume 1

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
conducted by Rumon Gamba.
Chandos CHAN 10939

Spring (Frederic Austin); Blackdown - from the Surrey Hills (William Alwyn): The Witch of Atlas – after Shelley (Granville Bantock); A Gloucestershire Rhapsody (Ivor Gurney); A Berkshire Idyll (Balfour Gardiner); The Solent (Vaughan Williams).

A splendid collection of descriptive and atmospheric landscape pieces by British composers, although Bantock took his inspiration via a poem by Shelley. Vaughan Williams wrote The Solent just before his massive Sea Symphony and touches on at least one theme in it.

Gurney died young in 1937 and his excellent Gloucestershire Rhapsody was posthumously put together for the Three Choirs Festival as recently as 2010. What a pity he didn’t write as much music as he did prose and poetry.

A Berkshire Idyll is the premiere recording of a work composed in 1913 but not heard until a Balfour Gardiner memorial concert in 1955. It deserves much wider recognition as does Frederic Austin's Spring, a veritable five movement tour de force.

William Alwyn described Blackdown as a tone poem from the Surrey Hills but although the hill in question is near Haslemere, he could easily have included the neighbouring Sussex upland as well.

A highly recommended disc. What have Chandos got lined up for Volume 2?

Edmund Whitehouse
February 2017

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